After an international week in which no new injuries have been reported, the major news before the Bolton game tomorrow is still injury related, with Sagna out for three weeks. It seems a long time ago that there were mutterings of discontent at his signing, people wondering why Wenger was strengthening an area that already had perceived strength. How wrong we all look now.
Sagna’s injury does highlight one worrying aspect of the squad, and one that we have been fortunate to avoid this season. In both full back slots, while the first choice has been a contender for player of the season, there is a big drop in quality to the reserve.
On the left, Traore has ability in abundance but remains raw, and has been exposed in more than one cup tie this season. It is fortunate indeed that Clichy is so robust these days, a far cry from a few years ago when his career was being threatened by serious injury after serious injury.
And on the right, Sagna is a huge loss. Hoyte may have started a large chunk of last season’s games, but he isn’t anywhere near Sagna’s level and was another so cruelly exposed in that FA Cup mauling at United. Eboue isn’t anyone’s cup of tea either, and while dropping him back to fill in is an option, it exposes the other problem in the squad, the lack of wide men in midfield, especially with Rosicky still out. In this instance, Diaby and Hleb would occupy the flanks, with both cutting inside at the first opportunity, and neither offering much direct goal threat (not that Eboue does either).
The man who may profit from Sagna’s misfortune is Senderos. Unfortunate to be dropped for the returning Toure, he may find his thriving partnership with Gallas restored with the Ivorian filling in at right back, a position he has taken on many times before. The downside is that only Djourou remains as centre back reserve, and his form for Birmingham this season suggests that he has some way to go too.
The first team still looks very strong, but a couple of injuries does require a major reshuffle and an inexperienced looking bench. In most cases, the squad can adapt, but at full back we have been exceptionally lucky this season. The counter argument, of course, is that Traore might not seem so raw after a run in the team, so who knows.
But back to tomorrow, and I don’t need to express how important a win is. Even putting aside the fact that it is Bolton, Chelsea are only a point ahead and no more points can be needlessly dropped if either of the top two are to be overhauled. As much as anything, any kind of win is required to feed some confidence back into the players ahead of the triple-header against Liverpool.
Enjoy the game.